We're making a 2D top-down spacehip shooter (PARTISAN: Forlorn Hope), so there's not a whole lot that hasn't been done (and done and done...). Our objective therefore is to make it fun without worrying about killing ourselves trying to reinvent the wheel. Basically, we got spaceships in space, running on a fairly simple engine, but that doesn't mean we can't have any fun trying to change up the dynamic a little. First, a screenshot:
The main problem I see with shmups is that they are fairly monotonous, although I am admittedly no connoisseur. It seems like it's either spray-and-pray, jabbing that fire button until your fingers are bleeding, or a mind numbingly hard moving maze puzzle as you avoid thousands of bullets, missiles, and balls-o-fire flung your way. Our goal is to make it a little more combat oriented, with fewer abstract glowing orbs of death and more space fighters unloading packs of missiles on your face. I'm tempted to say more realistic, but, you know, a little movies physics never hurt anybody. We're shooting for the BF2 of 2D spaceship shooters rather than the UT4K (less goofy, but not realistic enough to make it annoying to play). Screw bullet-hell games is basically what I'm sayin'.
There are not too many ways to address this, but to start I've narrowed it down to 1) Fewer, harder enemies and 2) Also they are smarter. What I mean is that we want to break from the standard 'waves of one shot enemies interspersed with a few just-as-stupid big versions capped off with a decent boss battle at the end'. I'm thinking of Tyrian here specifically (see a previous entry). Of course, you don't want to have too few enemies, since that would get kind of boring, and making them really smart would require more effort than Programmer-man Sir Sapo is willing to give. In the end, I think a game with the standard waves with a decent variety of enemies thrown in with a few challenging "Ace" mini-bosses is a good way to go.
We still have a lot of ways to make the game feel different at our disposal, too.
The easiest thing you can do to alter the game play is to mess with what the player can do. As I hinted before, one of my pet peeves with shmups is having to press and press that fire button to keep a steady stream of laser flying towards the enemy. So in Partisan you have what amounts to a gatling gun- just hold that button down and you have a beautiful stream of hate flying in front of your fighter. However, to make sure the player doesn't just tape that button down, we have an attribute called "Heat" that builds up whenever you fire, so it actually pays to hold back. Currently, if you overheat, then your fighter is unable to move or shoot, which often translates to "completely fucked." Yeah, we might change it merely to "slows way down and can't shoot" since it really is pretty harsh.
I really like this system so far though, since it gets to the point where you start firing bursts and trying to lead enemies more (that is, practicing marksmanship).
Another thing that oft irks me is the lack of damage control on shmup ships- one hit and you're a saaaad panda. And even if you aren't killed in one hit, you have to pray that you find some spacehealth packs quick. FPS's have figured out one alternative to this in the form of regenerating health. True to our cliche-following form, we gave the player energy shields.
To spice things up, we also gave the player an alternate weapon (the "mega-cannon") that requires some slight finesse but is also very useful. You can use it either as a generic big-ass laser that can destroy most enemies in one hit, or charge it up, releasing a wide-field attack that can clear the screen of most enemies.
This is the setup in-game.
This is where energy management comes in- see, both the shields and the mega-cannon ammo feed from your reactor, but they can't do so at the same time. The player has to choose whether to recharge his shields or recharge the mega-ammo, which adds a wrinkle of resource management to an otherwise straightforward game. So we end up with three resources for the player to manage: heat, ammo, and shields. If the player is confident they can dodge things without a problem, they can put the emphasis on ammo and have fun lasing stuff, or if they value marksmanship, they can keep the shields charging while using the default gun (and using the cannon if heat gets too high). This system will take some polishing, but I'm pretty pleased with it so far.
Stuff goin' down. (compare the Hud in previous screenshot)
I'm one of those once-every-two-weeks updaters, so just in case, don't forget to check out the new Carrier and Transport in the previous entry.
Tune in next time for adventures in level design and enemy creation. I'll be talking about the scripting system we have, and how I had to teach myself to use it in Sir Sapo's absence, which was... interesting. For example:
"Now what variable was that again?"
PS: GDNet+ Members, if you comment here, I promise to comment the crap out of your journal (If I haven't already, *Cough* Ravuya...). I really need to get into reading journals again.